Archive for May 1, 2023

Monday, May 1, 2023

Brave Search No Longer Using Bing

Brave (via Hacker News):

When Brave Search launched in June 2021, about 13% of the queries required the help of third parties to achieve the desired level of quality across various types of queries.


By default, Brave Search users will now receive 100% of results from the Brave Index, giving users fully independent results. As always, our results will preserve user privacy. And this independence does not come at the expense of quality: Over the past several months, the Search team has drastically improved Brave Search’s ability to answer nuanced, long-tail queries.

For users who want it, Google Fallback mixing will continue to be an option. Users can continue to support the growth of the index and results quality by opting into the Web Discovery Project, and submitting feedback in cases where we should improve. And users can use Goggles to re-rank and filter results from the Brave Search index.

Their own index, based on Tailcat, is working better than DuckDuckGo/Bing for me now. Hopefully, Apple will add built-in support to Safari.


Working Around Big Sur’s Missing TestFlight

Thomas Tempelmann:

I recently had brought up the question how a developer could test a program built for the Mac App Store before releasing it publicly on pre-Monterey (where there’s not TestFlight).

The solution (explained to me by DTS) is to submit it for review, with “pending developer release”, then use a promo code to install it on pre-macOS 12 via the App Store app.


Turmoil Behind Siri

Wayne Ma (Hacker News):

Late last year, a trio of engineers who had just helped Apple modernize its search technology began working on the type of technology underlying ChatGPT, the chatbot from OpenAI that has captivated the public since it launched last November. For Apple, there was only one problem: The engineers no longer worked there. They had left the company to work on the technology, known as large-language models, at Google.

Chance Miller:

A new report from The Information today goes in-depth on the apparent chaos inside teams at Apple working on Siri and artificial intelligence. According to the story, “organizational dysfunction and a lack of ambition” have plagued Apple’s efforts to improve Siri and the backend technology that powers it.

This dysfunction has led to Apple falling further and further behind competitors like OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google, leading some Apple employees to question the future.

Today’s report is based on “interviews with more than three dozen former Apple employees who worked in its AI and machine learning groups.” The report follows a similar story from The New York Times earlier this month, which explained how Siri is built on a “clunky” database that ultimately leads to it taking “weeks” for Siri to be updated with “basic features.”

Hartley Charlton:

Apple’s virtual assistant is apparently “widely derided” inside the company for its lack of functionality and minimal improvement over time.


Apple executives are said to have dismissed proposals to give Siri the ability to conduct extended back-and-forth conversations, claiming that the feature would be difficult to control and gimmicky. Apple’s uncompromising stance on privacy has also created challenges for enhancing Siri, with the company pushing for more of the virtual assistant’s functions to be performed on-device.

This is weird because I think the main problem with Siri is not the missing sophisticated stuff like conversations but that the basics remain unreliable. And for all the talk of on-device Siri, basic tasks like creating reminders still need network access, and tasks like controlling the audio, which should definitely run on device without any sophisticated AI, are still incredibly slow and buggy.

Apple’s design team repeatedly rejected the feature that enabled users to report a concern or issue with the content of a Siri answer, preventing machine-learning engineers from understanding mistakes, because it wanted Siri to appear “all-knowing.”


Most recently, the group working on Apple’s mixed reality headset were reportedly disappointed by the demonstrations provided by the Siri team on how the virtual assistant could control the headset. At one point in the device’s development, the headset team considered building an alternative method for controlling the device using voice commands because Siri was deemed to be unsatisfactory.

Nick Heer:

Maybe all that is true. But what I cannot understand is why anyone would think users would want to have a conversation with Siri, when many would probably settle for a version of that basic database association schema working correctly.


It is not the case that Siri is failing to understand what I am asking it to do. Rather, it is faltering at simple hurdles and functioning as an ad for other Apple services. I would be fine with Siri if it were a database that performed reliably and expectedly, and excited for the possibilities of one fronted by more capable artificial intelligence. What I am, though, is doubtful — doubtful that basic tasks like these will become meaningfully better, instead of a different set of bugs and obstacles I will need to learn.


Update (2023-05-03): John Gordon:

Why can’t Siri give me the Apple Music playlist I created? […] I just want Siri to do the simple things it weirdly can’t do. I don’t need Siri to be ChatGPT.

Secret Mac Security

Howard Oakley:

Apple is sadly no stranger to pulling updates. Ever since the days of classic Mac OS, there have been updates that have been rescinded faster than they appeared, sometimes leaving plenty of sick Macs in their wake. This week it seems to have been the turn of its latest anti-malware service XProtect Remediator to suffer this ignominy.

Not that this service officially exists. Since its tentative release in macOS Monterey 12.3 on 14 March 2022 and its rapid maturing during last summer, it has been given no more than an ambiguous byline in Apple’s Platform Security Guide, which doesn’t clearly differentiate the new malware scanner from the old XProtect.


At a little after 1700 GMT last Thursday, 27 April, Apple’s software update servers started offering an update labelled XProtectPayloads_10_15-96 which installed XProtect Remediator version 96 complete with its two new scanning modules for RankStank and RoachFlight. Within 12 hours, that was no longer available, and that new version has vanished without trace, notice or explanation.

I don’t understand why Apple is so secretive about its anti-malware efforts, especially in comparison with general security issues, which it documents very specifically.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.


Update (2023-05-02): John Gruber:

Seems a little weird that today’s RSR updates aren’t listed yet on Apple’s security updates page. In recent years Apple has been very diligent about updating this page upon the release of security updates. These new RSR updates seem to exist outside this documentation system for now.

See also: Howard Oakley.

Update (2023-05-03): Mr. Macintosh:

🚨 Apple has not shared the security content of the latest iOS & macOS Rapid Security Response Updates.

IMO update details should be shared for any Mac or iOS update that requires a restart.🖥

If you agree, please file feedback with Apple.📝

See also: Adam Engst.

Update (2023-05-19): Sören:

still no description of the security content of the RSR a few weeks ago. Was that the same patch? A different issue? Was it just a drill?


Update (2023-05-22): Gmarnin:

With the release of macOS 13.4, Apple has documented the what was in the RSR (Rapid Security Response macOS 13.3.1 (a)).